Effort to decriminalize pot in Toledo - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Effort to decriminalize pot in Toledo

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Toledo could be the test case for legal marijuana in Ohio.

The group Northwest Ohio NORML will soon circulate a petition in order to get the measure on the November ballot.

The group wants to decriminalize recreational marijuana.  It is a movement that is growing like a weed across the country and, in Ohio, the movement is sprouting in Toledo.

Many people have been influenced by the enduring image of pot smokers in the 1938 movie "Reefer Madness".  It shows fiendish smokers hopped up on weed.

But advocates of decriminalization insist prescription pharmaceuticals are what is fiendish– not the all-natural marijuana plant– and they want to change the law.

Ken Sharp is a member of the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).  He told 13abc reporter Bill Hormann, "We're looking for non punishment of possession, cultivation and use of marijuana."

By the end of the month, NORML will circulate a petition asking voters to put no the ballot a measure that would approve recreational use… with no fines and no jail time.

Mary Smith is the president of NW Ohio NORML.  She says, "We're ruining people's lives.  There are people sitting in jail for minor offenses that shouldn't be there."

One study estimates Ohio spends a billion dollars a year enforcing non-violent drug offenses, money NORML says could be better spent on other priorities.

"I think it's absolutely a terrible idea."

But state representative Barbara Sears (R) says decriminalization will inevitably lead to legalization at a time when Ohio struggles to deal with rising drug abuse.

She says, "Before we make any change, I think we have to be really really cognizant of the unintended consequences."

The Sylvania Community Action Team is one anti-drug group worried about an unintended consequence like how to deliver pot to users.

Deb Chany says, "Communities have to think about dispensaries; where do you want them?  Do you want them in your community?  How close do you want them to your schools."

Pot would still be technically illegal, even if the voters approve of decriminalization.

But it would be a minor misdemeanor or felony that would go on your record and could affect your job or ability to get housing.

It only takes 6,500 valid signatures to get this issue on the November ballot.

Decriminalization is not legalization, but it may be an attempt to thread the needle between public disapproval and personal freedom.

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